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Roku Express review

For less than £30, Roku Express has a lot to offer first-time streamers.

Roku Express review
4.0 out of 5 star rating

Roku’s streaming sticks may not be quite as well known as the likes of the Amazon Fire TV Stick or NOW TV Smart Stick but they do offer great value. At £29.99, the Roku Express is the cheapest, quickly followed by the Roku Premiere and Roku Streaming Stick+ – the most expensive of which is still under £60.

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As one of the cheapest streaming sticks on the market, you might not be expecting a lot from the Roku Express. However, we were pleased to see that the media player held its own, offering all the key smart features including voice search and still remaining under the £30 mark.

The Roku Express is simple to set up, easy to use and, in our opinion, one of the best streaming devices you can buy to give an old TV a new lease of life. Some may be put off by the fact it does not have 4K capabilities but if this is what you intend to use it for, it most likely won’t be needed.

What the Roku Express does do is offer simple and easy access to streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+ (including Star on Disney Plus) and Amazon Prime Video in the form of a small and inconspicuous black box.

Here’s our Roku Express review as we consider its price, streaming quality, set-up and design. Plus, why we think the Roku Express is ideal for first-time streamers or upgrading that old TV in the spare room.

To find out more about the smart home devices available, read our Google Nest Hub Max review and Amazon Fire TV Cube review. And for a better sound quality, try our Roku Streambar review.

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Roku Express review: summary

The Roku Express is one of the cheapest smart TV sticks on the market. With a RPP of £29.99, the Roku Express streams live TV and all your favourite Netflix and Disney+ shows in HD. The set-up is simple and relatively fuss-free, and the interface and Roku mobile app are easy to navigate. The inclusive of an extra remote on the mobile app is extremely welcome and the ‘Private Listening’ mode is a handy feature that is unique to Roku media players.

Price: The Roku Express is available for £23.99 at Amazon.

Key Features: 

  • Streams in HD
  • Watch live TV
  • Access streaming services such as Netflix, NOW TV and Disney+
  • Use voice search to find your favourite shows quickly
  • Private Listening mode streams audio to your phone and allows you to listen via your headphones
  • Free extra remote with the Roku mobile app

Pros: 

  • Great value for money
  • Good choice of apps and channels
  • Roku app is easy to use
  • Media player is small and fairly unnoticeable

Cons:

  • No volume or power buttons on remote

What is Roku Express? 

Roku Express review

The Roku Express is the cheapest of the brand’s three smart TV sticks available in the UK. Offering HD streaming and access to apps and channels such as Netflix, Disney+, ITV, NOW TV, hayu and My5, the Roku Express costs just £29.99. The smart TV stick is accompanied by the well-designed Roku mobile app that includes features such as ‘Private Listening’ mode and voice search.

To see how the Roku Express compares to its more expensive counterparts, read our Roku Premiere review.

What does Roku Express do?

The Roku Express is designed to allow those without a smart TV to access streaming services and apps. Roku offers access to over 150,000 movies and TV episodes, as well as entertainment and music apps such as Spotify, YouTube and BT Sport.

  • Streams in HD
  • Cast music and photos to your TV
  • Allows you to watch live TV, along with  various streaming services
  • Ability to voice search for apps, TV shows and movies

How much is Roku Express?

Offering HD streaming, the Roku Express has a RPP of £29.99. It is available at various retailers including Amazon, Very and Currys PC World. There is a more expensive Roku smart TV stick, the Roku Premiere, that offers 4K streaming. (Although if you go that route, you’ll a 4K television too: check out our what is a 4K TV explainer for more information.)

For a more detailed breakdown of Roku pricing – and the media players on offer – take a look at our guide to Roku costs and what you get for your money.

Is Roku Express good value for money?

In our opinion, the Roku Express offers some of the best value for money of any of the smart TV sticks we have tested. For less than £30, the Roku Express feels sturdy and allows you to access a wide-range of streaming services and apps. These include Disney+, Netflix, NOW TV, hayu, All4, ITV Hub and YouTube.

Due to the low price point, the Roku interface is simple but user-friendly. It is also a more neutral offering than the likes of Amazon’s Fire TV Stick or the NOW TV Stick. Unlike the Fire TV Stick and Amazon Prime Video shows, the Roku Express does not promote certain content over others. Therefore, if you don’t have a Prime Video membership, or alternatively you have a lot of different subscriptions, you may prefer the ‘equal footing’ layout of the Roku home screen.

To find out more about how Amazon’s offerings compare, read our Amazon Fire TV Stick review.

Roku Express design

Roku Express review

Weighing just 31g, the Roku Express is small and light and can easily sit on top of your TV aided by the adhesive strip provided, or can perch below the screen.

The remote has a total of 12 buttons include arrows for navigating, channel shortcuts, a pause/play button and a home button. It feels well-made and the buttons have a solid click. The only minor annoyance was that the remote doesn’t have any volume or on/off buttons.

We would instead encourage users to take advantage of the in-built remote on the Roku mobile app (Android/iOS). Not only do you get an extra remote for free, the keyboard makes typing so much easier and it offers the benefit of voice search.

  • Style: The media player is a small, black box with rounded edges and the Roku logo embossed on the top. The design is simple and shouldn’t stand out on any media unit or TV. The remote is also small and black with rubber buttons.
  • Robustness: Both the streaming stick and remote are lightweight but do not feel flimsy. The remote’s buttons are rubber but feel as though they should last.
  • Size: The Roku Express measures 7.6 cm long and 3.8cm wide and can easily be tucked under the TV or attached to the top of the TV without being an eyesore.

Roku Express streaming quality

The Roku Express only offers HD streaming and has no 4K capabilities. It supports up to 1080p resolution and, for the price, the streaming quality is good. The media player is responsive when navigating via the remote and on voice search, and there were no issues of buffering or lag.

Voice search via the Roku mobile app works well when given specific instructions and in stages. For example, we found it worked best when you requested the app first (e.g. Netflix) and then a show.

It is worth noting that the streaming quality largely depends on your TV. The media player is designed to optimise the picture quality of your TV so that there is always sharp resolution and rich colour – and we found watching shows in HD via the Roku Express extremely enjoyable.

However, if your TV has 4K resolution, you may prefer to spend £10 extra on the Roku Premiere. This slightly more expensive smart TV stick provides all the same features as the Roku Express but with the addition of 4K streaming. However, if you simply want to give an old TV an upgrade, the Roku Express is more than capable of doing this job well.

Roku Express set-up: how easy is it to use? 

The process of setting up the Roku Express is simple and relatively fuss-free. A HDMI cable and two AAA batteries are included in the box so can be set up immediately after purchase.

Once everything is taken out the box, you are guided by written instructions and detailed diagrams. Roku also provides directions to additional instructions online if you would prefer to follow those. After connecting the media player to the TV, you will be required to create a Roku account and connect to Wi-Fi.

The final step is to choose which channels and apps you would like to add to your interface. However, you can, of course, continue to add more apps once the Roku Express is set up.

During the set-up process, we would also suggest downloading the Roku mobile app. It is free and can be used as an extra remote. We also found the keyboard on our phone to be much easier and quicker to use than that on the TV interface.

What is the difference between Roku Express and Roku Premiere?

Roku Premiere Roku Express

There are only two main differences when it comes to the Roku Express and Roku Premiere. The first is the price. With an RPP of £29, the Roku Express is £10 cheaper than the mid-range device.

This £10 difference is largely due to the fact that the Roku Premiere offers 4K streaming capabilities, while the Roku Express can only stream in HD. Because 4K is higher resolution, the picture quality should be considerably better on the Roku Premiere. Therefore, if you do have a 4K TV, it might be more beneficial to buy the Roku Premiere to get the most from your TV.

The Roku Express is instead best used to upgrade an older or smaller TV and allow you to watch streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+ and NOW TV on your TV rather than laptop or tablet.

Beyond these differences, and the fact that the Express media player is marginally wider, the smart TV sticks provide access to the same apps, channels and on-demand services, and use the same remotes.

To see how Roku compares to other brands, read our comparison guide on Roku vs Fire TV Stick. Or head over to our Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite review and NOW TV Smart Stick review for more tried and tested products.

Our verdict: should you buy Roku Express?

The Roku Express is one of the cheapest smart TV sticks on the market and offers great value for money. It does not support 4K, like the more expensive Roku Premiere, but HD streaming capabilities are available and we found the streaming quality to be good. If you have an old TV that you are looking to upgrade and it does not have 4K resolution, the Roku Express is ideal.

It would make a good purchase for any first-time streamers as it has a brilliant range of streaming services, apps and channels available, it is easy to navigate and has the added bonus of voice search. What is unique to Roku streaming players is the ‘Private Listening’ mode that allows you to stream audio to your phone and listen via your headphones. This feature is incredibly useful for when you want to watch the TV without disturbing others in the house.

Design: 4/5

Streaming quality: 3/5

Value for money: 5/5

Ease of set-up: 4/5

Overall rating: 4/5

Where to buy Roku Express

The Roku Express is available at a number of retailers.

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